I’ve been using WordPress for a long time now because it’s such an easy content management system (CMS) to setup and manage. A big piece of that ease of use comes with the great WordPress plugins that the developer community has created and shared. There are a ton of articles out there listing various plugins, and you can find a plugin that will do nearly any obscure thing you might want, but for this article I’m just going to share the best WordPress plugins that I continue to use on all the sites I build.
The Best WordPress Plugins That I Always Install
WordPress SEO (Yoast SEO)
This WordPress SEO plugin is a must have for getting your site to rank in search engines. It lets you easily see what your site will look like in Google and change the title and description tags to whatever you think will be most enticing to your potential visitors. It’ll also let you enter the primary keyword you’re interested in ranking for and let you know how well you did including in the content of your site.
Once you’ve set that primary keyword and hit the save/update button you’ll be able to take a look at the page analysis which will give you an in-depth ranking for various SEO ranking factors. These are just best practices, so I’d recommend making sure the article is focused on the readers first and SEO second (i.e. don’t write bad copy just to try and meet all the SEO requirements).
If my site is going to allow comments, I’ll install the Disqus WordPress comment system. This plugin replaces the default WordPress comments with Disqus. They are focused on building a comment system which I feel ends up creating a better product. I used to waste a lot of time trying to filter out spam comments and keep track of comments from various blogs. With Disqus they’ve got filtering measures built-in (if you’re using WordPress comments you’ll want Akismet activated for this) and you can control your comments from within WordPress or view all your sites by logging into disqus.com (note: you’ll also need to setup an account with Disqus to get it going).
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
If you’re running a WordPress blog you generally want to encourage people to stay on your site and read more than one article, especially if there is other content that will be useful to them. The Yet Another Related Posts Plugin is an easy way to surface similar posts that the reader might be interested in and can decrease your bounce rate. It’ll match articles based on what you’ve entered in the copy and if you use keywords and categories you can improve the accuracy.
YARPP will place these related posts after your article using a few pre-built templates or you can make your own. If you want to drop it somewhere else in your page you can add a call into your single post template like this:
<?php related_posts(); ?>
The Best WordPress Plugins to Speed Up Your Site
W3 Total Cache
There are a bunch of good tutorials on how to set W3 Total Cache up out there and it’d take more than this article for me to dive in, here’s a good example tutorial: http://code.tutsplus.com/tutorials/configuring-w3-total-cache-general-settings-i–cms-20920
If you’ve done a ton of creating, deleting, editing, etc of your posts it’s not a bad idea to install WP Clean Up and let it clean up your database to keep things running quickly. Definitely backup your data just in case (I’ve never had a problem, but be safe), here’s how you can do that: http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_Database (near the bottom there is a plugin you can use if you’re not comfortable with the other methods).
The Best WordPress Plugins for Coders
Raw HTML Pro
If you know HTML and occasionally want to write some more complex code without WordPress adding in line breaks and other automatic formatting Raw HTML Pro will come in handy. It lets you disable that formatting on a post by post basis. The pro version is worth the upgrade if you find it useful. It fixes issues switching between code/text edit mode.
If you’re ever sharing code samples (like I do on this blog) this will come in handy. You can wrap it in pre and code tags and it’ll display nicely. For example:
// I wrapped this in <pre> and <code> tags so you can see the code
Single Post Template
This plugin lets you create multiple post templates that you can choose from in each post (just like you can do with pages). Just simply create a template and give it a name at the top like:
<?php /* Single Post Template:Fancy Post */ ?>
The Best WordPress Plugins for Social Sharing
AddThis for WordPress
AddThis is a simple way to add social sharing buttons to your site. It has literally every social site you can imagine (probably too many, but you can customize it). If you only want to use a couple I typically just embed myself, but if you want to add a bunch this really comes in handy. You can also select not to show at the top or bottom of posts and instead add your own custom code to place the links wherever you want like this:
<?php do_action( 'addthis_widget', get_permalink(), get_the_title(), array( 'type' => 'custom', 'size' => '16', // size of the icons. Either 16 or 32 'services' => 'facebook,twitter,google_plusone_share,linkedin,pinterest_share', // the services you want to always appear 'preferred' => '0', // the number of auto personalized services 'more' => false, // if you want to have a more button at the end 'counter' => false // if you want a counter and the style of it )); ?>
Revive Old Post (Former Tweet Old Post)
If you’re creating content that is ‘evergreen’ (meaning it is always relevant not like a news item) it can be handy to try and get fresh eyes on it by reposting it to twitter. Revive Old Post will automatically tweet out old articles to your Twitter account on a schedule. Keep in mind you won’t want to seem spammy by tweeting too often, especially if you don’t have many articles.